Oregon, the latest state to tackle high drug prices, pushes through transparency law

Oregon's lawmakers passed a bill to rein in drug prices, and the governor signed it on Tuesday. (Wikipedia user Shaundd)

Pharma has suffered another defeat in the state-by-state war over drug prices. On Tuesday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill that seeks to fight high costs and bring transparency to pharmaceutical pricing.

Oregon's HB 4005 requires drugmakers to report R&D and marketing costs, profits and more for drugs that get price hikes of more than 10%, according to a release from the group behind the bill, Oregonians for Affordable Drug Prices Now. Companies must also report whether generics are available and certain drug prices in other countries, the group says. 

Under the law, pharma companies must provide the first reports by July 2019.  

Aside from reporting requirements, the bill creates a drug pricing task force and mandates that Oregon's Department of Consumer and Business Services post a list of high drug-price hikes. HB 4005 further requires that insurers show how high drug prices affect premiums, among other stipulations. 

Immediately after Gov. Brown signed the bill, industry hit back. In a statement, BIO CEO Jim Greenwood said the law will "will have a chilling effect on an innovative industry and do nothing to empower patients or lower their prescription drug costs."

A PhRMA spokesperson said the group is concerned the law "won’t deliver real answers or cost-savings for patients."

"If we want to alleviate the growing cost-sharing burden being placed on consumers, we have to fully address the realities of our current supply chain," she added. "The task force established by this legislation is an opportunity to have that much-needed, broader conversation about the system as a whole and the direct challenges patients are facing at the pharmacy counter."

For her part, Gov. Brown said in a statement that the law "brings greater transparency around drug pricing, an important step towards making life-saving and essential drugs more available and affordable.”  

The changes in Oregon come after many other states have taken up drug pricing and as Congress hasn't been able to advance on the issue despite years of talk. Maryland, California and Nevada have all passed bills that aim to take pricing on from different angles, and other legislatures around the country are looking into the issue. 

According to the National Academy for State Health Policy, state legislatures are considering 78 bills to regulate pharmacy benefits managers, 48 focusing on drug price transparency, 11 on price gouging and more on a variety of other topics, including importation. 

The pharma industry has resisted many of the proposals, sending lobbyists to state governments around the country, according to Kaiser Health News. 

All of the debate comes during a period of national attention to drug pricing, sparked by now infamous price hikes from Martin Shkreli's Turing Pharmaceuticals, Valeant, Mylan and other companies. Congress has considered several approaches to rein in prices, and the Trump Adminsitration has said it is a priority, but so far there hasn't been meaningful action on the issue from the federal government. 

In President Donald Trump's first year in office, pharma trade group PhRMA boosted its lobby spend by 30%, focusing on patent issues, Bayh-Dole march-in rights, importation, Medicare price negotiations and more.

Editor's note: This story was updated with a statement from PhRMA.

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